Every Bible translation program is different.
There is no one-size-fits-all program plan. It is impossible to make an executive decision and say that all programs will include these elements and follow this schedule. Many variables need to be considered:
- What is the background of the community? For example, is there armed conflict going on? Do they have financial resources? Is the mother tongue widely spoken?
- What are the religious influences in the region? This might determine what initial projects are chosen and which book of the Bible the language team should translate first.
- What does the language community really want? For example, do they want to have Scripture for evangelism, or liturgy? Do they wish their children to attend a school where the mother tongue is the medium of instruction? Is language preservation a felt need?
- How open can the translation program be about their work? In some places, the team can be completely open about what they are doing and involve a wide range of people in the program. In other areas, however, Scripture translation into a minority language is seen as divisive. Here, literacy and community development aspects of the program are given more promotion in public, while Scripture translation is carried on quietly. In other places, where the Bible is not welcome, translators must work carefully behind the scenes, supported by the few Christians.
Bible translation is difficult.
Finding just the right word or phrase to express a concept comes with much hard work. The challenge for the local translator is often, first of all, to clearly understand the concept that needs to be translated. Since the translation resources (commentaries, dictionaries) are generally only in English, their research is often through a third language. Challenges include:
- Unknown concepts (such as camels, sheep, Jewish religious traditions)
- Abstract concepts (such as love, grace, worship).
- Relationships between people and over time (for example: did Moses live at the same time as David?).
- Complex arguments such as those which Peter and Paul develop in the epistles.
Simply producing a translation is not enough.
There are barriers to people actually reading it that need to be addressed. These might include:
- Illiteracy, or, more often, being able to read a little yet not fluently enough to enjoy reading.
- Habits: Being in the habit of reading the Bible in a national language even if it isn’t understood well.
- Inaccessibility: books cost money and are difficult to transport to remote locations.
God has some choice servants working to translate the Bible for their own people.
With their higher level of education, they could be working for another organization at a much higher salary. Each one we have met has a wonderful story of how God called them and is blessing them in His work!
It’s really true that God speaks to people through His Word and changes them forever.
We are thrilled to hear of people being healed, of lives transformed, and of people boldly speaking the name of Jesus even when persecuted.
Translation is a team effort.
Translators work together with community checkers, pastors and committees. They also need trainers, administrators, consultants and typesetters, to name a few others. They also need people who will financially support them until the work is finished. When the job is finished, we all have reason to rejoice!